Military rule in Africa is coming to an end

Shortly after independence, military officers overthrew elected civilian governments and established military regimes. The ousted governments were accused of a wide range of wrong doing including ideological shifts; excessive involvement in the economy including nationalization of private enterprises, accumulation of external debts and budget deficits; rampant corruption, sectarianism and cronyism; violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms and changing or amending constitutions to accumulate power and govern for life without checks and balances. These abuses had resulted, inter alia, in increased absolute poverty and its offshoots of hunger, disease and ignorance. Therefore removing such failed governments from power by military means was legitimate.

When Obote government was overthrown in 1971, the soldiers led by Amin gave 18 reasons for their action including widespread corruption, regressive taxes, high unemployment, high inflation, income inequality, sectarianism, failure to organize elections, detention without trial and frequent loss of life, creation of a second army, developing Obote’s home area of Akokoro at the expense of the rest of Uganda, breakdown of security and overall violation of human rights as well as overreliance on the army. Against this backdrop, the soldiers believe acted legitimately to prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

There was jubilation especially in the capital city of Kampala. Amin promised that once the situation had improved in a short period he would organize elections and return to the barracks and serve the government as a professional soldier. However, Amin not only failed to organize elections but declared himself president for life. He hired mercenaries who assisted him to rule with brutal force. By the time he was overthrown in 1979, up to 500,000 Ugandans and non-Ugandans had lost their lives and some 70,000 Asians had been expelled from Uganda. The environment had been extensively damaged beyond recognition in some places as in Kabale district where wetlands were converted into ranches and the local climate became warmer and attracted disease vectors like mosquitoes with serious health consequences. The economy was in ruins and many Ugandans had reverted to subsistence activities.

In January 1966 Jean-Bedel Bokassa overthrew his cousin Dacko and became president of the Central African Republic. He pledged to end corruption and improve the economy and welfare of the people. However, he soon showed his true character. He murdered Alexander Banza with whom he organized the coup and descended on politicians that served under Dacko with brutal force.

In 1977 Bokassa became emperor at a cost of $30 million, the equivalent of 20 percent of Gross National Income, which he borrowed to entertain 3,500 guests that were served with 24,000 bottles of champagne.

The emperor accumulated wealth as the leading businessman. One of the activities he engaged in was the sale of ivory leading to the slaughter of 5000 elephants a year. He also sold diamonds and timber (Clive Foss 2006). Like Amin, Bokassa damaged the environment extensively.

In 1978 Bokassa ordered that all primary and secondary school children wear uniforms made in his factories and sold in his shops. When the students protested Bokassa led troops against them and some 100 of them were killed. He then descended on university students; many of them were imprisoned and executed. In 1979 Bokassa like Amin was deposed, having made a bad situation worse.

In 1960 Belgian Congo became independent under Lumumba as prime minister with Mobutu as defense minister. In 1965 Mobutu seized power, became president and promised elections in five years. Before doing so in 1971, Mobutu abolished parliament, post of prime minister and assumed all powers of state and ruled by decree. He then hunted down opponents many of whom were jailed or killed. He remained in power for more than 30 years during which time he drained the country of its wealth for his family and cronies making the people of Zaire among the poorest on earth.

Beginning in the second half of the 1980s a new breed of military officers led by Museveni emerged. Museveni who became their dean in preaching democracy and neoliberal economics said at his first inauguration in January 1986 that his government was not a mere change of guards. It was a fundamental change. He condemned African leaders who stayed in power too long, emphasizing that he was not that kind of leader. He promised that as soon as security returned to the country hopefully by 1990, he would step down. He never did. Elections were not held until ten years later in 1996 under international pressure which were rigged.

Museveni had promised he would end the suffering of the people of Uganda, industrialize the economy, launch science and technology programs to make Ugandans technologically skilled to compete anywhere in the world, balance agricultural production for domestic consumption and export to end hunger at home and generate more foreign exchange for development purposes.

None of what he promised has been satisfactorily fulfilled. Multiparty politics has been suffocated. There is a poor record on rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights and freedoms. Instead Ugandans are experiencing arbitrary arrest and detention. And Museveni is still in power and counting since 1986.

African military rulers like their counterparts in Latin America have failed to deliver on peace, security and development. Consequently, Africans and their development partners are rejecting military governments as experienced recently in Mali, Central African Republic and Burkina Faso. Therefore Ugandans who wish to end NRM’s failed regime need to adopt non-military strategies which are more effective in regime change than the barrel of the gun (R. Guha2014).

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Uganda has a complicated history

Boutros Boutros-Ghali former United Nations Secretary General wrote “Without knowledge of history and of one’s own past it is impossible to conceive the path to the future”.

Without understanding Uganda history which is complicated, it will be difficult to conceive a smooth and sustainable common path to the future. Pre-colonial history was marked by wars of territorial expansion, slave trade and plunder to accumulate wealth. Colonial period was characterized by religious conflicts, annexation of territory, economic exploitation (growth poles versus labor reserves), indirect rule where chiefs, their families, relatives and friends benefited at the expense of others, etc.

Uganda attained independence in difficult circumstances. DP was cheated. UPC/KY entered into a fragile marriage of convenience. Our leaders could not agree on the head of state so we ended up with the Queen as head of state represented by a Governor-General. They could not agree on the name of the new country so they settled for “Sovereign State of Uganda”. The leaders could not resolve the “Lost Counties” issue that became so divisive and led to the 1966 Mengo war and the Republican Constitution of 1967 that has pitted Buganda against Obote and UPC since then.

The problems got worse and we ended up with externally assisted Amin coup of 1971. Military rule turned out worse than Obote I regime and Uganda was invaded by Tanzania in 1979 and ended up with Lule who was imposed on Uganda; then Binaisa who landed at state house. He had been refused entry at the Moshi conference 68 days earlier. Then there followed total anarchy that opened the way for Obote to return because there was a political vacuum. Some Ugandans vowed to oust him and entered into a marriage of convenience that was bound to rupture and it did even before Kampala fell to the guerrillas in 1986 when Museveni refused elections to replace Lule who had passed on a year before Kampala fell and Museveni became president by default. Baganda were thus cheated because a Muganda be it Protestant, Catholic or Muslim was expected to replace Obote. Museveni like Amin had the backing of external assistance as well as mercenaries.

This time we should not make another mistake of just joining with any group for the sake of overthrowing Museveni and then plunge the country into anarchy again. We need to form an all (inclusive) transitional government but led by people with impeccable character. Those with suspected dirty hands from any group be it NRM, FDC, UPC, DP or any other party or organization should not be permitted to join the transitional government. We must vet every aspiring leader to be part of the transitional government. We therefore call on Ugandans to come forward with information about those positioning themselves to form the next government. The government must be led by a presidential team with each of the four regions represented to prevent one person to become president and then refuse to leave office. The security forces must be led by Joint Chiefs of Staff, not by one person, representing the four regions. The public service commission must be led by a team representing the four regions to stamp out sectarianism.

The transitional government must have a clear mandate and duration. It should last up to three years. It should conduct a comprehensive population census to determine who we are and how many we are. It should convene a national convention so Ugandans debate and decide how they want to be governed. It should then conduct free and fair multiparty elections and form parliament and cabinet on the basis of proportional representation. That way the winner-take-all mindset is eliminated and none is excluded from the political, economic and social processes. Parliament should then become a constitutional assembly and draw up a new constitution. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be established of independent Ugandan and foreign experts to investigate violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms since independence so that such practices are not repeated.

Those who participate in the transitional government should not participate in the next elections because they will have the advantage of incumbency.

These are concrete proposals. Let us discuss them, adjust them or provide alternative. We can’t debate forever. Time has come to act.

Eric Kashambuzi

Post-NRM Uganda will need a transitional government led by a presidential team

I have consistently argued that the system of governance in Uganda with strong central government and one person president who accumulates political, military and economic powers in his hands; appoints and dismisses public servants has not worked. This unsatisfactory governance system has pushed Uganda to a point of near disintegration. Calls to secede from Uganda are on the increase. This is a fact we have to accept. Then we need an alternative, at least temporarily, to help us draw lessons for a roadmap for the next 50 years.

Uganda will need an inclusive transitional government for at least three years embracing all political parties and credible organizations, except individuals alleged to have committed crimes against humanity since 1962. The government must be led by an empowered presidential team with impeccable character – character is the defining word to qualify.

During periods of near anarchy as in Uganda today you need this arrangement whose principal function is to give people a breathing space. This has been done before in countries where disintegration was looming on the horizon.

In Soviet Union, when Stalin died in 1953, the supreme authority was officially vested in three top Politburo members. Khrushchev eventually emerged as the leader in 1955 (F. Rothney 2002). The Soviet Union was thus saved.

In former Yugoslavia, when President Tito died in 1980 at a time of serious political economy difficulties that threatened the unity of the country, his functions were transferred to the collective State Presidency and to the Presidium of the League of the Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY). The President of the State Presidency acted as the head of state, rotating the post annually among the members of the presidency (Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Europa Publication Limited 1994). It allowed Yugoslavia to stick together for another ten years until people decided to go their ways in a bloody fashion.

In Uganda a three man presidential team was established by the Military Commission. The Commission recognized the importance of this office at least to calm the nerves of Ugandans that would possibly have rebelled in its absence after Presidents Lule and Binaisa had been ousted from power.

This time we need it even more to give Ugandans a chance to debate and agree on how they should be governed and deny one person an opportunity to manipulate the people and stay in power. Museveni had promised he would leave the office in 1990. It is now 2014 and he still wants to be re-elected in 2016. He is able to do this because the one person presidency allowed him to force removal of presidential term limits from the constitution. This is a lesson we can’t forget and can’t allow to be repeated.

We need to be innovative. We can’t settle into routines even when they have not worked. Let me add that a presidential team may slow down efficiency but that is not the issue now. The issue is to give people a sense of representation at the highest level while they sort out how they want to be governed. The proposed transitional government led by a presidential team should not last more than three years unless the people may want to extend it as is done in Switzerland.

Please offer your constructive views on these two proposals: a transitional government led by a presidential team for up to three years.

Eric Kashambuzi


For revolutions to occur there must be a trigger

As I have written and spoken on a number of occasions, revolutions will not occur unless there is a spark. I have given you the sparks that triggered revolutions in France, Mexico, Russia, Tunisia and Ethiopia. In Uganda the conditions for a revolution are there in abundance. What is missing is a spark which could come any time from now. We can prevent a revolution only if commonsense prevails in the NRM government. Ugandans are not docile people. They are ready but the spark hasn’t gone off yet.

In Iran the revolution was triggered by an article written by the Shah. Here is what happened after the Shah decided to counter the growing popularity of Ayatollah Khomeini.

“The Shah penned an article, a report supposedly about Ayatollah Khomeini, calling the cleric a coward, a traitor, a communist and insinuating that he’d partaken in particularly lascivious deeds. On January 7, 1978, when the Shah had the article published …, it was the first time the cleric’s name had seen the ink of Iran’s printing press since 1964. It also marked the last time the Shah’s people were going to put up with his crap [hence the spark].

Iranians knew it was a fake. The article that condemned Khomeini, calling him decadent and a communist spy, proved to be the noose the Shah drew around his own neck. When religious students in Qom read the article, they kicked off a protest that would snowball into a revolution. Marching from the house of one theologian to another asking them to condemn the Shah, their numbers grew from a few dozen to thousands, as angry townspeople joined in. Windows were smashed, the crowd chanted ‘Down with the Shah’, and several marchers threw stones at police manning a roadblock. The police shot into a crowd, killing five. Or may be seven or twenty or thirty….. Across the country, memorial services were scheduled, and those emotional protests spawned more run-ins with the security and more deaths. Religious students continued protesting so loudly that SAVAK and the military broke up the protests. At least seven students were killed. Riots broke out….. The oil workers went on strike, cutting off revenue and domestic supplies. The blackouts began. …

In August, a theater in the oil town Abadan burned down, killing four hundred. …, the striking oil workers blamed it on SAVAK. In September the Shah imposed martial law … All public meetings were banned and even two constituted a crowd.

Khomeini’s tapes urged followers to rebel [these days it is social media]. On September 8, 1978, thousands convened in Teheran … In response…, the military rolled in… At least eighty were killed on Black Friday… It marked the Shah’s darkest hour.

The Shah tried deal making with his people. He promised to call off SAVAK. He tossed in a new prime minister – a nationalist. But it had all gone too far. By now the revolution had full support of the bazaaris, the powerful and religious-leaning merchant class whose networks stem from traders to the countryside. … Like that in the cities, the rural population backed an overthrow of the Shah’s regime and backed Khomeini, whose anti-Shah message was also embraced by ethnic minorities… and militant dissidents…

It soon became clear that the Shah had lost his grip. Asked to leave by the prime minister, on the night of January 16, [1979], the Shah, his wife, and his family secretly hurried from the palace and boarded the royal plane. .. For the first few months he [the Shah] made a home in Egypt, watching in horror the news of what had happened since he left [and never to return]”(Melissa Rossi The Middle East 2008).

Many leaders who refused to listen to the voices of dissent from their people including Rhee of South Korea, Marcos of the Philippines and the Shah of Iran I have written about ended up in exile, never to return. These leaders were confident they had strong security forces and reliable foreign backers. In the final analysis the people’s power prevailed. It could well happen in Uganda even though there might be strong security forces and reliable external friends.

The purpose of writing the above quotation is not to incite a revolution in Uganda but to advise the government that the way things stand the only alternative left is a people’s revolt unless the government is willing and ready to enter – quickly – into negotiations with opposition parties and groups at home and in the Diaspora to set up an all inclusive transitional government run by a presidential team with each region represented. The transitional team would then arrange for free and fair multiparty elections.

Eric Kashambuzi, Secretary-General of UDU.

Everywhere Change begins with awareness

As I have been writing and saying change be it in politics or economics etc begins with awareness. You have to understand how you got your place in the scheme of things – how you became a ruler or ruled. And must you remain that way?

As we acquire education and travel, we end up reading about enlightenment or reason by Europeans who challenged the status quo inter alia of divine kings, peasants or serfs who were heavily taxed without benefits, leading to the American and French Revolutions followed by others throughout the world.

The Atlantic Charter agreed to by Roosevelt and Churchill called for self-determination of colonized people. Following the formation of the United Nations the General Assembly adopted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It states in part that we are all born free and equal in rights and dignity. The differences are man-made: one group using whatever means but largely force turned another group into a servant or slave thus losing God-given political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights – especially the right to land ownership and the right to determine one’s destiny.

In Uganda the rights and freedoms of many Ugandans were taken away and forced into subjugation. People were forced into administrative arrangements that still exist today. Some kingdoms that started off tiny expanded into large entities by military force, intimidation and surrender. Buganda received a large chunk of Bunyoro as a gift for helping Britain to defeat Bunyoro. Ruthless methods including scorched-earth were used and the record is there for all to see. Thank God the records exist. Ugandans find them, read them and you will understand why we have inequalities: how some got ahead of others politically, economically and socially and those ahead don’t want others to catch up. You will understand strangers in our midst, how they got in and what they have done.

Uganda has entered the era of enlightenment or reason and that can’t be reversed. Ugandans no longer want divine rulers who think they rule by the grace of God and can dictate what is good for Ugandans. Ugandans are now vigorously questioning the current scheme of things in which those connected with the NRM administration and traditions get all they want while others are sinking deeper into poverty – educated or not or are languishing in exile. Ugandans want to know their history including their roots and how they came to be governed as they are. Those who want to prevent this thinking have launched ideological programs to keep Ugandans in the current scheme of things. You were born to be a goat herder that’s it, so will be your children and theirs. You were born to be a king that’s it, so will be their children and theirs. This is man-made and violates the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights about freedom and equality.

Ugandans are now reading and vigorously debating and no longer taking things for granted. They know independence discussions did not include people self-determination. They were just handed Uganda as it was colonized. The people were never consulted. They are now asking about the origin of 15 nations that have resurrected a few months ago and are asking: are Banyankole a nation? Are Baganda a nation? Are Banyakigezi a nation? Are Batoro a nation, etc? The champions of 15 nations need to explain who came up with this idea and how they define a nation whether in a classical sense or their own. Commentators are discussing it but the champions are silent. Have they discovered they made a mistake and don’t know what to do about it? I am asking these questions because I am not aware of what the champions have said.

Ugandans are now seeking self-determination. Self-determination is sought by the people, not their rulers. We call upon all Ugandans to engage in this debate with evidence and in a constructive manner so that we find solutions to set the record right peacefully. Rights and privileges are different things. Rights are inalienable (none has the power to take them away). Privileges are given by a ruler who can withdraw them. For example Museveni appointed Mbabazi a prime minister which is a privilege and he has taken it away from him. But Museveni has no right to decide who should vote and who should not. That would be a violation of a God-given political right of an individual. And when he takes away that right he should be resisted. That is why we are resisting the way elections are conducted and not accepting the outcomes as the opposition did after the fraudulent 2011 elections.

No president or king has the right to take decisions unilaterally. The people in one form or another must be involved. That is why in some situations referendums are held to get the views of the people in a free democratic atmosphere. When that does not happen, the people have a right to seek an alternative.

One of the things we should resist is losing our land because land is life. That is why the rich are investing heavily in land purchase or grabbing because they know that once you are landless and have no skills to sustain yourself outside agriculture you are basically finished economically and by extension politically and your rights and freedoms can be violated with impunity because your are powerless and voiceless.

In order to fulfill its fifty year master plan and extend it thereafter NRM is focusing on dispossessing Ugandans of their land. The opposition should stand up to this blatant abuse of the inalienable right to land ownership and challenge anybody who collaborates with the government in land grabbing.

The age of reason has come to stay and can’t be reversed. Negotiations and compromise is the only alternative to a peaceful resolution of differences. The alternative which should be avoided is a nasty one and everyone knows that is what Sejusa and Kafero are championing.


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